President Obama today announced plans to open vast new stretches of coastline to oil and gas drilling. The New York Times has the story here. The President claims that the plan "would balance the need to produce more domestic energy while protecting natural resources, would allow drilling along the Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the north coast of Alaska. It would end a longstanding moratorium on exploration from the northern tip of Delaware to the central coast of Florida, covering 167 million acres of ocean."
The plan is already being criticized on both sides: by environmentalists who argue that it will do nothing to improve American energy "security" (whatever the hell that is) while substantially increasing risks to marine wildlife and coastal ecosystems; by oil industry types and their Republic supporters in Congress who claim that the plan leaves too many coastal areas off-limits to oil drilling. Both sides are right.
This is precisely the kind of split-the-difference, conciliatory Obama approach to policy - similar to his initial forays into health care reform, before he was finally forced to stick his neck out - that pleases no one and pisses off everyone. I thought the health care reform process might have taught him the political value of strongly supporting a set of principles he believes in. Apparently not. Based on this off-shore oil drilling plan, it's not at all clear what the hell he believes in.